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Bush Signs Bill to Prolong Life of Brain-Damaged Woman

President Bush has signed an emergency bill aimed at prolonging the life of a severely brain-damaged Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed three days ago.

Mr. Bush signed the bill into law shortly after Congress voted final approval of the measure early Monday, following a lengthy debate that stretched past midnight Sunday.

The new law calls on a federal court in Florida to hear an appeal by Terri Schiavo's parents that her feeding tube should be restored as part of "medical treatment necessary to sustain her life." President Bush said he supports the action because - in his words - "our society, our laws and our courts" should be expected to act "in favor of life" in such cases.

A federal court hearing - expected to begin within hours - could overturn a state court ruling and allow Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube to be restored sometime today.

Following an emotional debate in which members of Congress brought up issues of morality and the role of the government in right-to-life as well as right-to-die issues, the bill passed easily, 203-58, backed by most Republicans and many Democrats. Opponents of the legislation say it violates the American constitutional principle of the separation of powers among the branches of government.

Ms. Schiavo, now 41, has been in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, and has been kept alive by a feeding tube. Her parents discount the results of medical tests - including a brain scan - that show she has no brain activity, and no possibility of regaining consciousness or any brain function. Michael Schiavo, Ms. Schiavo's husband, who is her legal guardian, contends that before she became incapacitated, his wife said she would not want to be kept alive artificially in such circumstances.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.